While most baseball fans are fairly familiar with Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Kris Bryant and the rest of this year’s free-agent class, a potential difference-maker may not be a household name yet.
Outfielder Seiya Suzuki, 27, is a four-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time Japan Central League batting champion as a member of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
He also helped Japan win the gold medal in baseball at the most recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Last season, Suzuki hit .317 (average), .433 (on base) and .639 (slugging) with 38 home runs and 88 RBI for Hiroshima before the team allowed him to leave and sign with an MLB team.
What elements of the MLB are interested in signing Suzuki?
In January, Nikkan Sports reported that four teams — the Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox — were pursuing Suzuki.
How tall is Seiya Suzuki?
The outfielder is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 182 pounds, according to Baseball-Reference.com. (Though other sources, including Prospects Live, have him at a more credible 216-pound weight.)
Suzuki takes a swipe at its relatively modest build. In addition to his .315 career average and .415 NPB on-base percentage, Suzuki has hit at least 25 home runs in each of his last seven seasons.
How good is Suzuki defensively?
Those three Gold Gloves don’t tell the whole story. He also has a strong and accurate arm in the outfield. He will probably play right field in the majors.
How does Suzuki compare to other Japanese hitters who have played in the majors?
First of all, he doesn’t possess the raw power that Shohei Ohtani does. But few hitters in the majors do.
Suzuki’s greatest strength may be his excellent batting eye. He has routinely posted walk rates that were nearly equal to his strikeout rates. Last year with Hiroshima, he walked 87 times and struck out 88, both impressive rates of 16%.
And he combines that plate discipline with power, something Yoshi Tsutsugo of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Shogo Akiyama of the Cincinnati Reds haven’t displayed thus far in their major league careers.
In terms of contact rate and power, some major league outfielders who were similar to Suzuki last season include Kyle Tucker, Cedric Mullins, Charlie Blackmon and Juan Soto.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Seiya Suzuki: OF could make the difference between MLB free agents